We're Jamming: Cell Phone Zappers

New Cell Technology for Karaoke-on-the-Go, Nanny Surveillance and More

Society for Hand-Held Hushing

A group calling itself SHHH! -- the Society for Hand-Held Hushing -- offers cards like this for people beleaguered by incessant cell phone abusers. (Courtesy of Coudal Partners)


March 1, 2005 — We're all prisoners of technology, doomed for all eternity to a cell — unless, of course, you have a cell phone jammer.

If you burn with anger when you're subjected to the nonstop jabbering of a cell phone abuser, there's something you should know: The technology now exists to zap that person's cell phone signal with the press of a button, so he's left talking to himself.

Cell phone jammers — some made to look like actual cell phones — are widely sold over the Internet at prices ranging from $300 to $1,500. The low-end models block calls at a range of about 30 feet, and top-of-the-line ones can provide a cell-free zone almost as large as a football field.

The offending loudmouth won't even know he's being jammed. His signal will just go dead, and he'll probably just complain to his phone carrier. That is, if his signal ever returns.

One minor problem: Jammers are illegal. Regulating the airways is the domain of the Federal Communication Commission, and a violation carries an $11,000 fine. But the FCC has yet to slap someone for illegal jamming.

It's unclear how many people are purchasing such devices, but the number of online merchants hawking jammers has exploded. The sellers are based outside the United States — where local laws may permit such technology — but these companies seem geared to serve Americans. In some cases, they even boast that their products are designed to blot out radio frequencies reserved for cell phones in the United States.

It should be noted that importing such a device is also illegal.

Luckily, there are some old-fashioned, shame-based solutions for rudeness. One online group, calling itself the Society for Hand-Held Hushing — or SHHH! — is offering downloadable notes that you can fill out and hand to someone who's speaking on the phone a little too loudly about something a little too personal.

An example of such a SHHH! note reads as follows:

Dear Cell Phone User,
We are aware your ongoing conversation about YOUR HUSBAND'S VASECTOMY is very important to you, but it doesn't interest us in the least. In fact, your babbling disregard for others is more than a little annoying.

— SHHH! Society for Hand-Held Hushing

The hushing campaign, started in jest by designer, has clearly struck a cord. Since December, the company is reporting more than 400,000 downloads of SHHH! cards.